Tag Archives: change

Everything happens for a reason, but…

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Chinese Proverb

2014 is coming upon us and I am thinking about some of the goals that I have for the upcoming year.  As many people do, I will focus on something that has to do with my health, my career, and those that surround me.  It is great to look back at what you have done in the past and reflect upon the year, and as each new year comes, I am excited about what lies ahead.

As the year comes, and in everyday life, I hear this saying often:

Everything happens for a reason.

I believe this more than you would ever know but I have always felt that the saying was missing something.  In my opinion, it should be something like this:

Everything happens for a reason, but you will need to do something with what lies before you.

Years ago, I was unhappy in my career and was ready to quit education. I hated teaching and a new profession seemed that it was on the horizon.  Due to some unforeseen events, I ended up getting a job in a new district and in my head, decided to give it one more year.  Since I was totally new to my district, I decided that with this new opportunity I was going to reinvent myself.

It started simply with wearing a tie to work everyday.  I know that it seems very simple, but that one little change made me feel something different.  With that little change, bigger changes happened within me, and although within one short year I became a school administrator (which I had never envisioned), I came to a place where teaching was not a career, but a passion.  Many of those mindset changes that I made that year I continue to do today.  Because of that year, I have always seen change as an opportunity, even when it comes out of something bad.  It takes a lot of work to see it, but when you do, your life can become that much better, but it depends on what you are looking for.  Change is hard but it is a lot harder to deal with when we choose to do nothing.

So if everything happens for a reason, what will you do with the opportunity that lies before you?

The Innovator Mindset


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Moyan Brenn

When I first started to get online, I used Internet Explorer, then Firefox, and now I use Google Chrome, but am able to use any of those other browsers depending upon the site and what works best.

I also signed up years ago for a Hotmail account, but then at work I was given “First Class” email, followed by Outlook account, and now Gmail.

Do you remember Word Perfect?  I used that as well, followed by Word (a ton of different versions), and now exclusively Google Drive for word processing.

Other than all of these things leading to Google products (I do love Google stuff but am also a big fan of an iPhone), what do all of these things have in common?

Change.

To clarify this isn’t change for the sake of change.  All of the technologies that I have left behind and have moved onto are for something better, yet they have more than likely iterations of one another.   Innovation is not always entirely new, but it should always be better.

I would be surprised that in 10 years I am using the same things that I am now as I know in the world of technology, things continuously evolve.  It is norm in the world of technology, and in reality, the world.  Change is inevitable, and many people in the world of educational technology see change as the constant and something to embrace, not fear. This is not everyone (there are a lot of people in educational technology that are still terrified of the “cloud”) but it is a common mindset with many that are in the field.

This is one of the reasons why I believe educational technology seems to be creeping into every conversation and every level of school at this moment in time.  Not because change hasn’t been the constant, but because of the pace that change is happening.  What is awesome about this development is that you are seeing traditional “technology” conferences (such as ISTE), have a different audience.  You are not only finding tech coordinators anymore, but teachers of every level and administrators.  These educators are not necessarily coming to check out the technology, but are embracing the mindset that at every level, educators are looking to become innovators.  Many educators outside of the EdTech have had this same “innovator” mindset for a long time, and it seems like now is the “perfect storm” of educators coming together.

To try and predict the important technology that we will be using years from now in education is much too hard; just expect to be doing something different.  Yet, to hire and look for and develop people that see change as an opportunity to do something amazing should be a standard in our organizations.

The “Innovator Mindset” is something that educators should embrace as a whole.

Slowing Down Change


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kewl

Sometimes I wish that I had more great ideas. I wonder when an awesome idea will pop into my head or I will be inspired and I can share it with our staff and get them really excited about some new learning that can happen in their classrooms. Lately though, it just doesn’t seem the wheel are turning and I am starting to wonder why. I know that I have helped to push some great learning initiatives within our school division, but it doesn’t seem that there have been any new ones coming from my office lately.

So I started to wonder, “why is this happening?”

I started to look at the way I attend conferences and the articles that I read. My interest in information that goes outside of what we are doing already seems to be waning and I just do not have the time to read everything that comes my way. I also do not go to sessions that I don’t believe will make an impact on my work right now and I haven’t done anything “new” in awhile.

In my title, “innovation” is an important part of the description and to me, it means “new” and “better”. So I guess I am starting to understand why I have felt a bit stagnant. I am not really focused on “new” at this point until I see the work that I am doing is making learning “better”. In a role of leadership, I often hear teachers say things such as, “we can just wait for this to pass”, and to be honest, I do not want to bring initiatives to our division that people can just “wait out”. I want to bring initiatives to the division that are long lasting and transform the way that our students and staff are teaching and learning, not just bring in something flashy. I am watching teachers in my school division do some amazingly innovative things and I am extremely supportive of this. We need to allow our “innovators” to be innovative and I am always supportive of that.

It is important to be visionary and forward thinking but it is also important to be supportive and patient. The best leaders will find the balance between the two.

Change is good when it is needed and as leaders we should always be aware of trends in our world and education, but we also have to recognize when it is time to stay the course.

Change the Measure


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aussiegall

The other day, through a conversation on Twitter, one of the questions that came up (which does often), is in light of all the progress in education, how do we measure if what we are doing is successful?  As I thought about it, it seemed that we are looking for some quantitative data to show success.  What I was struggling with though is if we are trying to make learning personalized, why are we trying to group the data?  Personalized learning would seemingly lead to personalized assessment and data with every child having a different measure of success.  The view of “success for all” really does not tell the story of each individual child but measures them against some common standard.  Wouldn’t success look different to every single person?  It seems we are looking to use “industrialized” data for personalized learning.

So what could that look like?  Well many organizations outside of education use the concept of “exit interviews” to measure how their company is doing and what it could do better.   Although there could be a more “numerical” way of doing this, many great organizations know that there is truly value in having conversations with those involved, and that through this qualitative data, their companies can get better.  The process is long but it is valuable.  What could that look like for our students?  Actually sitting down with them individually and having them share what they learned?  Would we not be able to understand how well they are doing while also assessing where we need to grow?  Is this not time well spent?  We need to bring our students in the conversation more.

Or why not focus on portfolios that tell the story from the child’s point of view?  Using digital portfolios are something that gives student the opportunity to not only share what they are learning, but it is also a reflective tool for learning.  By giving students a platform so we can look in at some of their thought process, will we not build an understanding of how well they are doing?

How do we measure success?  Through a score?  To adults, success could mean to some a good family, others a rewarding career, some money.  The standard is different for everyone.  We need to give this opportunity to our students.

I have said it before, and still believe that if classrooms are going to change (meaningful and sustainable change), organizations and structures need to change.  Simply looking for a “number” based on a different measure seems like the same type of assessment.  If we are going to change the way we teach, we need to also change how we assess, not just what we assess.

Suggestions?

Patience


cc licensed flickr photo shared by Digital Blue

I was asked for my thoughts on a blog post by my friend Jabiz Raisdana on his blog post regarding the movement of his own community in blogging. Jabiz shares some of his thoughts on how blogging has maybe not caught on in his own building to the extent that he had hoped and how he hopes that he can move them forward.

It is amazing how much I can learn from the comments in my own blog post, but also from writing my own comments on other blog posts.  The way we can develop and nurture our thoughts through writing has been one of the best, unintended benefits I have had through my experience blogging.  Here is what I wrote to Jabiz on his post:

Hey Jabiz,

I totally get where you are coming from and appreciate your role modeling that you have done for others. The fact is, that many of us expect that educators just JUMP in and do some deep reflective thinking on a blog space, when they may have never even done that in any writing space (online or offline). It is not that these teachers are not reflective, they just may not write down their thoughts.

To help with this, I think that you will need to scaffold with them. I think of it on the level of Bloom’s taxonomy. To get to the high level thinking, we have to start often with some of the lower end stuff. I have seen teachers go from posting spelling lists, to some VERY DEEP, reflective posts that involve their students comments and conversations. The role modeling that you are doing is a great step, but it often needs to be accompanying other elements that you are bringing into practice.

One of my mentors said the following to me: “There are three elements of being a strong leader. You have to know when to stand in front to share and role model the vision, you need to stand beside and work together towards the vision, and you need to stand behind to encourage them to move on their own.”

I heard someone say something along the lines of this: “A rock is not formed in one swift move, and if it is, it can be destroyed. A rock is formed through the continuous shaping of the tide over years.”

As educators, we need to stop thinking of learning in yearly segments.  Learning is continuous, along with the process of change and growth.  When schools work together, and have that same belief, what they can do together is absolutely amazing.  When we are rushing to get everything done by the end of the year through our own growth process, that is when things feel like add-0ns and we lose our belief in them.  I for one, do not want to look back at my time as a school administrator and believe that the ideas I have implemented were “fads”.  The tools might be different, but the learning should be continuous and built upon.  If we really believe that an idea is truly  better for education, the process will (and should) take awhile.

Is this not a great way to role model to our students that we are continuous learners?

Which side are you on?

, via Wikimedia Commons”]

By Pascale Riby [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

“There is good reason to believe that if the phonograph proves to be what its inventor claims that it is, both book-making and reading will fall into disuse. Why should we print a speech when it can be bottled, and why should we learn to read when, if some skilled elocutionist merely repeats one of ‘George Eliot’s’ novels aloud in the presence of a phonograph, we can subsequently listen to it without taking the slightest trouble?” (A quote taken from I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton)

I  have been fascinated by the above book talking about our present society and how we are adapting to the massive amount of technology.  It is definitely something that applies to schools and the parallels in are obvious in education.

Although I know that change is not always accepted, especially in our society within the areas of innovation, it is amazing to hear the stories Bilton shares about our past and seeing others struggle with the same thing:

“It was claimed that trains would blight crops with their smoke and terrify livestock with their noise, that people would asphyxiate if carried at speeds of more than twenty miles per hour, and that hundreds would yearly die beneath locomotive wheels or in fires and boiler explosions. Many saw the railway as a threat to the social order, allowing the lower classes to travel too freely, weakening moral standards and dissolving the traditional bonds of community.” That’s right: Some people theorized that if humans traveled at more than twenty miles per hour, they would suffocate. Or worse. Anne Harrington, chair of Harvard’s history of science department, found that scientists also believed that traveling at a certain speed “could actually make our bones fall apart.”

I have been on a train several times and my bones are still in place!

As we see many schools either trying to embrace this technology in the classroom, or else push it all together, I wonder about how we parallel to the rest of society.  At one time, online banking was something that many people did not trust as a reliable way to use this service, but in my own life, I now can’t imagine not having this service.  If you look at the music industry, their reluctance to embrace this technology sooner rather than later has probably led them to losing a substantial amount of money. Itunes has helped with this but the damage that has been done through the continuous battle with record companies and ultimately, the consumer, has led to irreversible damage (watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto for a fascinating documentary on this and copyright laws). The difference is that in education, I am not worried about losing money; I am more worried about losing our kids.

We need to embrace this technology and give our students the opportunity to become not only consumers, but creators of information.  Bilton shares a FANTASTIC story of Malia Obama capturing her father’s inauguration on her own cell phone.

As the president awaited his swearing in, his ten-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, sat behind him taking pictures with her digital camera. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people taking pictures of that event—pictures of Barack Obama would appear on the front page of almost every newspaper and news website around the world—yet his daughter wanted to document the event through her own eyes.

Our children need to have the opportunity to be creators and tell their stories in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.  At our school, we have made tremendous strides to give the power to our students to share these stories through the forms of blogs and different forms of media.  It is essential that our students continue to have power over their learning and how they create and share their own knowledge.

As I close this post, I leave you with the following quote from Bilton (definitely a must read) and a question:

You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.

Which side are you on?

Resistance


cc licensed flickr photo shared by eflon

My good friend, Patrick Larkin, sent me a book entitled, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, and it could not have come at a better time.  Having only read through the first chapter, it spoke to me immediately when talking about some of the things that we will face Resistance.

7) Education of every kind.

8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought of conduct in ourselves.

9) The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavour whose aim is to help others.

11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.

In other words, any act that rejects the immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.  Or, expressed another way, any act that derives for our higher nature instead of our lower.  Any of these will elicit Resistance. (The War of Art, Steven Pressfield)

Although there are several things that we see as beneficial to the long term growth of our students, there are many critics who say we need to keep them the status quo (while also complaining schools are not serving our students needs).  My continued belief is that as educators, we need to be the ones who stand up  for our kids and do all that we can to ensure that they have the opportunity to follow their dreams and be successful.

Recognizing and encouraging the strength of each child, building opportunities for self-directed and relevant learning, and creating a learning community for our school are things that are going to take work but are necessary for our kids.

Innovation and change is always met with Resistance, but if we are doing what is necessary for our students, then it is the work we have to do.

Thanks for the inspiration Patrick :)

Evolution of a Lead learner

I have been on Twitter for a year and blogging for less.  The more I have developed my own learning, I truly believe that the learning opportunities for my school through the use of social media have also developed.  Check out the visuals:

I started in my own learning space on this blog in April 2010 and then started a collaborative blog with school administrators on Connected Principals in August 2010.

At the beginning of the school year (September 2010), we ensured that we opened our network to our entire school community through our blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Staff also have their own blogs through this process to role model use for their individual classrooms. All teachers have a blog from K-12.

Students started creating and sharing in their own blogs at our K-12 school in October of 2010. Currently we have over 200 blogs that are being used by staff and students in our community, with an estimated 500 by the end of the school year.

In a short while, a lot of our practice has developed and changed for our students by immersing ourselves in the practice.  You will see more of a focus on student centered learning, and it has been a fantastic journey for myself and our school.

How will immersing yourself in your own learning lead to more relevant opportunities for your students?

Push

I was very excited to be asked to write the introduction for an e-book that Richard Byrne is putting together to share with educators next week.  I am really hoping that I can give that little push to educators to start using these free technologies to connect kids around the world.  In the spirit of sharing, the introduction is below.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by stevendepolo

“The times they are a-changing.” Bob Dylan

This is probably the most overused, yet most relevant quote on the planet.  The times they are always changing and although the world continues to change with it, some educational practices have become stagnant.  Walking through classrooms, you can still see students lined up in rows, writing solitary exams, while the world continuously pressures us to shape collaborators, thinkers, and innovators.  Education should be “a-changing” right along with society.

Here is something that hasn’t changed though: the best teaching is always built upon relationships.  Think back to your own favourite teachers.  They were probably people who knew quite a bit about and made you feel that you were a unique and special individual.  The fact of the matter is that they did this probably for most students they encountered.  They were people who you felt believed in you and inspired you to do great things, maybe even to become a teacher.  They always seemed to go the extra mile to ensure that you knew your strengths and cared deeply about your passions.  No matter what technology comes into our classrooms, nothing will ever replace a good teacher.  Nothing.

Now, take that good teaching and equip it with the advancing technology we now have at our fingertips.  This is the game changer for educators.  Preparing our students not only to be digitally savvy, but leveraging these technologies to help them create, communicate, connect and collaborate will prepare them to be contributing citizens to their future.  When we were in school, bringing the “TV” to the classroom was one of the best days ever.  Now we have the opportunity to bring the world to the classroom every day.  I would be excited to have this opportunity as a learner, but I am even more excited as an educator.  We have the means to create this revolution in learning where our students not only learn, but connect with people around the globe.

Here is a problem: you may not feel comfortable with this technology.  That’s okay, because there are probably people in your school that are, and those people are willing to help to get you started.  If they are not in your school, they are sitting here and waiting to jump into your classroom from miles away.  We all became educators to do what is best for all kids, not just a small group of kids.  If you don’t feel comfortable with the technology, though, I have three words for you: get over it.  This is not about you, this is about our kids.  We have to do everything to empower our students for their future, not our past, or even our present.

What is your goal?  To have students become successful at school or successful in life?  Don’t be scared to take risks and screw up.  This is what you tell your kids everyday in school, and we are meant to be their role models.  Live your words in front of your students.  My advice?  When the screen pops up, to click any of these words: Accept, Next, and OK.  I promise you that you will not wreck anything, but the rewards on the other side of these words are worth the risk.  Go for it!

The best thing about this technology is that it is built upon the same premise of good teaching: relationships.  Social media is about connecting and learning from people, getting to know about other cultures and perspectives, sharing, and empowering our students to connect, not with computers, but with people.  The biggest reason to use this technology is not about the “cool” factor.  That wears off.  It is about learning from people.  By opening access to your students, you are opening their minds to perspectives and experiences that go far beyond the four walls of the classroom.  Be the facilitator of these opportunities so that our students can learn in a safe and meaningful way.  When they grow up, you will be held in the same regard to them as your teachers were to you.  Provide opportunities and create change.

I know that the learning in this book will help you to prepare your students for their future so that they will not only contribute to it, they will lead and define it.  Your students are going to use this technology either because of you, or in spite of you.  I know which reason I want to be.  How about you?